Highlights From Directions 2023

After attending the annual Directions EMEA event in Lyon, Conor Flanagan, ERP Team Lead at Storm explores some of his key takeaways from the event.

The author of this page: Conor Flanagan
Conor Flanagan, ERP Team Lead Nov 10, 2023

A must-attend event for all partners focused on Dynamics 365 Business Central, Power Platform and Dynamics 365 CE, this year’s Directions event -  held in Lyon, France - was full of some exciting announcements and learnings, as well as some great networking with our valued partners.

Unsurprisingly, Directions 2023 heavily focused on AI, with Microsoft assuring partners they have no intention of slowing down their investment and commitment to AI. With the technology solutions powerhouse committed to bringing new AI technology and features to all our favourite business solutions, something that partners and ultimately users can feel quite excited about.

Continia & AI

My first key takeaway came from our partner Continia. Continia announced the introduction of AI to automate the line recognition processes and indeed pattern recognition, where if regular invoices are received from a supplier, it can identify the link and auto process. In addition, Continia showcased ESG and sustainability-focused functionality This is something that will be coming down the line very soon with EU legislation requiring all large companies to report on this from 2025, with smaller clients expected to ultimately follow suit soon after. Continia have added functionality to record and store ESG related fields such as mileage distance, carbon emissions etc. They have also added a fully dedicated carbon chart of accounts. Along with this, Continia has developed a complex data lake which points at many government and regulatory sources to get the best and most up-to-date regulatory guidance for your jurisdiction. Then based on the data captured and the regulatory guidance, Business Central will calculate the record of the emissions to allow for full reporting.

Copilot and Power Platform

Similar to last year, Power Platform featured heavily over the course of the 3 days, in particular the latest AI developments in both Power Apps and Power Pages. Integration of Copilot is set to further enhance the low code movement, enabling users to create webpages and apps using natural language prompts. Take for example the creation of a webpage, while previously users would have to build out the webpage using a WYSIWYG or drag-and-drop interface, Copilot will allow users to write a simple prompt such as “Create a website to showcase all products including details on stock availability” and Power Platform will then draft a website for the user, kick-starting the website development process and providing the user with a foundation upon which to build.

In addition, some interesting Power Apps demonstrations showcased how Power Platform can help finance and operations teams streamline basic tasks such as expense management or stock counts – helping free up employees for more value-add business activities.

Bank Reconciliation & AI

Bank Reconciliation has been an obvious gap in Microsoft's offering for some years now, so it is exciting to see Microsoft has worked to bridge this gap. Harnessing the power of AI to improve automatic matching by recognising potential matches. This should cover off on partial payments from the bank versus one payment posted to Business Central. Additionally, if you have regular payments, bank fees being an obvious one, previously you had to transfer to a journal, post and then continue your bank reconciliation. In the coming months, Business Central will have the capability to automatically recognise this, suggest a GL account and automatically process. This was a welcome announcement and a huge step forward, reaffirming Microsoft’s focus on enhancing this area of core solution functionality.

Copilot Chat with Business Central

While this did not get as much hype as the above points throughout the sessions, this announcement was probably the most exciting of the lot. Microsoft is adding a chatbot to Business Central which can be used to ask questions around the support or more interestingly, interrogate the data. While Business Central has a lot of great standard reporting features along with the powerful capabilities of Power BI further enhancing this, it can still be difficult at times to quickly find exactly what you want. The new chatbot will answer user’s questions and produce the report/data required. The example used at the event was ‘Show me the open sales orders from the last X months’. Although this is a simple example, the potential around this is enormous. Many clients want to be able to interrogate their data and get results in real-time, queries such as ‘What are my top 10 selling products’, ‘What products haven’t sold for 3 months’ or ‘How many of my customers have multiple invoices outstanding’. While this information is currently available to customers, it might take 15 minutes of their time to manipulate the data to get the answer to a specific question but this chatbot could answer it in seconds.

Indeed the options for support are exciting too. The example used was around error handling, where an invoice could not be posted due to mandatory dimensions not being completed. However, the new chatbot will be able to take the user to the item card and enter the mandatory dimensions. This can then evolve to auto-suggest resolution to errors and guide the user through the steps to resolve.

These are just some of the key topics and takeaways from this year’s Directions EMEA event and we look forward to seeing these announcements come to fruition over the next year. The team at Storm are already looking forward to attending Directions 2024 in Vienna for more exciting updates and learning.

If you would learn more about how your organisation can benefit from the new feature updates, then get in touch to speak to a member of our team today.

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